This is from a review of something:

There is no doubt that the (product name) is arguably the best consumer (product category name) currently on the market.

I stopped for a while after reading that sentence. If there is no doubt it is the best in class product, then why is the word arguably in there? Is this just plain wrong grammar or is there some justification for this? I think there's a conflict in logic of this sentence.

Edit: Maybe I should provide more context. The rest of the review supports the notion that it is the best in class product and there is no irony or sarcasm in the sentence.

  • 1
    Nice title - although arguably slightly different to the actual example (which is inarguably right, so far as I'm concerned! :) – FumbleFingers Jul 24 '11 at 4:25
  • Could the writer have meant inarguably and gotten confused? Or maybe just flummoxed by a spell checker (like the one nagging me right now) that thinks inarguably is not a word but arguably is? – Peter Shor Jul 24 '11 at 20:02
  • @Peter Shor: On reconsideration, I think that's more likely than that the writer is a complete idiot. My disdain for the world of advertising tripped me up. Duly chastened, I shall amend my answer to reflect what seems a far more convincing scenario. – FumbleFingers Jul 25 '11 at 3:04

Fairly obviously there can be multiple X's, any or all of which may be 'arguably' the best X. To qualify for that designation they only have to be capable of being argued for – they don't need to actually be the best.

Equally obviously there may be some X's which are so bad they're not remotely capable of being considered for 'best', and some other X's that are so good no-one would deny they're at least in contention, even though only one can actually get the top rating.

So – strange as it may seem on first reading – there is no doubt OP's sentence is both grammatically and semantically sound. Though we still don't know whether the product in question really is the best - that needs to be established by argument.

Thanks to @Peter Shor for pointing out what seems an eminently plausible rationale for the unusual phrasing. The writer intended inarguably. There's still the tautology of inarguably repeating the sense of There is no doubt, but pointless repetition is a feature of much "persuasive" writing – particularly in advertising (and product reviews, which are often incestuously related).

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    It's grammatically and semantically sound, but a bit wishy-washy. It's a pretty bad way of writing a review, since people expect you to take a strong stance and support it. – Maxpm Jul 24 '11 at 4:28
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    @Maxpm: Couldn't agree more that it's appalling English. I don't think I'd call it wishy-washy though, so much as prolix, verbose, pompous, circumlocutory, long-winded, pretentious, etc., etc. – FumbleFingers Jul 24 '11 at 4:36
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    @Maxpm: Ha ha, although "a bit wishy-washy" seems somewhat redundant, it fits in very nicely here (+1). – Randolf Richardson Jul 24 '11 at 5:19

This is grammatically correct, though I imagine the strict meaning is not the original intent. To say "there is no doubt that x is arguably y" means that there is no doubt that someone can make an argument that x is y.

For example, "There is no doubt that Casa Juan has the best burritos in town" means that nobody would doubt that in a contest for best burrito, Casa Juan should be one of the finalists. You could not say "There is no doubt that Taco Bell has the best burritos in town" because nobody would seriously consider Taco Bell to be even a contender for the best. (FWIW, I really like Taco Bell :-)

So the lack of doubt pertains to whether a serious argument can be made, not whether it actually is the best.

Nonetheless, if this is an advertising thing it probably the original intent we "we are going to tell you it is the best, but put a little equivocation in there in case we get sued." If it is a user review, it is probably just a fat finger.

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